American Airlines announced a huge leadership reorganization today, resulting from its effort to shed at least 30% of management staff. A number of Vice Presidents and Senior Vice Presidents are leaving – with voluntary exit packages more generous than what’s previously been disclosed publicly as part of this program – and that has meant reshuffling leadership roles.
Rumors have been swirling about which members of top leadership will depart. Now we know who is staying and who is going – for now. Taking seriously American’s goal to apply 30% reductions evenly to leadership positions we should be seeing twice as many departures as have come out so far.
Some of today’s moves I find most notable,
- David Seymour, who was responsible for American’s disastrous operation last summer and whom the airline was unwilling to make COO in last fall’s leadership reorganization, becomes Chief Operating Officer.
- Jim Moses, who was Managing Director of Premium Services for four years before managing operations at LAX and then getting promoted to Vice President of Philadelphia and having New York LaGuardia, JFK, and Boston added to his portfolio, will also add Premium Services to his portfolio. He’s a really strong executive, but that’s a lot on his plate.
- Don Casey is leaving as Senior Vice President of Revenue Management, so Vasu Raja – who runs network planning – gets revenue added to his purview.
- Yesterday I wrote that AAdvantage President Bridget Blaise-Shamai is taking an early out. Senior Vice President Kurt Stache who oversaw marketing, loyalty and customer experience, is also leaving. They both ‘agreed to work on several critical assignments’ and I believe that includes pledging the loyalty program as collateral for a subsidized CARES Act loan.
- Loyalty will be left in the hands of Rick Elieson, currently head of cargo who once ran AA Vacations and for three months worked on the AAdvantage team in 2006. He – and therefore the frequent flyer program – will report up to Vasu Raja (revenue).
- Janelle Anderson, whose portfolio includes in the airline’s brand, is staying and she’ll report to Alison Taylor from Sales who becomes Chief Customer Officer – a position American hasn’t had since Virasb Vahidi was out when US Airways leadership took over.
Airline President Robert Isom’s full note to employees about these changes follows:
Last week, we launched a voluntary early out program for our management and support staff team members. These new early out options, coupled with the reality of becoming a smaller airline on the backside of this pandemic, will change the way we do business.
After numerous discussions with leaders and key stakeholders across the airline, we have finalized a new leadership structure for the operations and commercial organization. As we go forward, we will align ourselves around three outstanding leaders and the imperatives they will support. Each of these individuals will report to me.
David Seymour will assume the title of Chief Operating Officer. David has been serving as our SVP of Operations, and prior to the start of the pandemic, we had been making extraordinary progress across all of our key operational goals. David will continue to lead Technical Operations, Airport Operations, the Integrated Operations Center (IOC), Flight and Safety and will add the Flight Service team to his group. Our operation is the foundation of all we do as an airline, and we will continue to build on this foundation as customers return to travel.
The following individuals will report to David: Kevin Brickner, SVP of Technical Operations; Jim Butler, SVP of Airport Operations; Kimball Stone, SVP of Flight Operations and IOC; Jill Surdek, SVP of Flight Service; and Ron Thomas, VP of Safety. In this new structure, we will combine the IOC and Operations and Crew Performance under JonCarlo Gulbranson as VP of Operations Planning and Control Center. JonCarlo will report to Kimball and be part of the Operations senior leadership team.
Our airport operational leaders will report to Jim Butler: Joe Taney, SVP of DFW Hub Operations; Juan Carlos (J.C.) Liscano, VP of MIA Hub Operations; Ralph Lopez, VP of CLT Hub Operations; Jim Moses, VP of PHL Hub, JFK, LGA and BOS Operations; Donna Paladini, VP of Field, DCA, LAX and PHX Operations; and Franco Tedeschi, VP of ORD Hub Operations. Ralph will replace Dec Lee, who is announcing he will retire from American after nine years with the airline. Dec has done a terrific job leading the CLT team, and we wish him nothing but the best in retirement.
International stations will fold into the leadership teams of several VPs: Franco in ORD will assume leadership over Asia and Europe; J.C. in MIA will lead Caribbean and Latin America; and Donna will lead Canada. Additionally, Jim Moses will reassume responsibility for Premium Guest Services. In this structure, we will be combining the reporting lines of Cargo and parts of the Customer Experience Innovation and Delivery group into a new organization reporting to Jessica Tyler, who has been named President of Cargo and VP of Airport Excellence.
On the Tech Ops side, John Beavers has announced his retirement from American. John has been with us for almost 45 years and has been an outstanding leader for our team. We will miss his contributions and steady leadership. Finally, Craig Barton, VP of Technical Operations, will continue reporting to Kevin Brickner.
Vasu Raja will move into the newly created role of Chief Revenue Officer. Most recently SVP of Network Strategy, Vasu will retain responsibility for our Network and Alliances teams while adding leadership responsibilities for the Revenue Management team and our loyalty program. The link between network and revenue will never be more important than over the next 18 to 24 months as we rebuild the airline. A more coordinated effort between Network Planning, Revenue Management and the AAdvantage program will be enhanced by this new structure.
Vasu’s direct reports will be Rick Elieson, VP of Loyalty; Jim Fox, VP of Revenue Management; and Brian Znotins, VP of Network Planning. The Alliances team will report to Vasu, as well.
One of the elements that drove today’s announcement is Don Casey’s decision to retire. Don has spent 20 years at American contributing in Network Planning, Alliances, Revenue Management and, most recently, heading up the Revenue organization. Don’s in-depth understanding of how the key revenue levers need to come together to deliver results has been invaluable. I am extremely pleased that Don has agreed to serve in an advisory capacity through the end of the year. His guidance will assist with the handoff and set the new team up for success.
Alison Taylor has been named as our Chief Customer Officer. Since Alison’s arrival in 2016, she has revitalized our Sales organization and demonstrated the leadership traits that produce a collaborative, winning team. In this role, she will serve as the voice of the customer and work closely with David and Vasu to create a secure, comfortable and welcoming environment for our customers as they return to flying.
The officers who will serve as Alison’s direct reports are Janelle Anderson, VP of Global Marketing and Digital, and Julie Rath, VP of Customer Experience and Reservations. Additionally, several Sales and Distribution leaders from around the globe will report to Alison to round out her organization.
Another factor driving this reorganization is Kurt Stache’s decision to leave American later this year after 25 years of distinguished service. Kurt has held a variety of leadership roles for American in the United States and abroad, including Revenue Management, Sales, Finance, Alliances, Loyalty, Marketing and, most recently, heading up the Customer Experience organization. He has deep passion for this airline and has been a true champion for our team and our customers. We are grateful that Kurt has agreed to serve on several critical assignments to help our company through the initial phase of this transformation. Kurt will be joined by Bridget Blaise-Shamai, VP of Loyalty, who has also decided to leave American later this year, and has agreed to work with Kurt on these projects.
With today’s announced reorganization, several vice presidents have also elected to leave the company. Alice Curry, Chris DeGroot and John Gustafson have each devoted a significant amount of time and energy to American, and we owe them a debt of gratitude. Please join me in wishing Alice, Chris and John the very best as they move to the next chapter in their lives.
There is no question this is a time of unprecedented change. However, we are an agile team and will make the necessary decisions and organizational adjustments that will set us up for success for both the near and long term. All of this starts with getting our operations and commercial leadership structure set. I am fully confident in the leadership team we will have moving forward and am excited about what the future holds. Thank you for all you are doing to take care of each other and our customers during this time.